I had just arrived at destination after a longish walk in the company of some sixty or so other people. Walking in a group is not something I’m enthusiastic about, but this was a special occasion, worthy of an exception. My fellow walkers had dispersed and I found myself with time on my hands, waiting for someone to fetch the car to take us back to the starting point. My surroundings were not of the best… a massive, noisy, chaotic car park come picnic area at the entrance to one of the most famous valleys in the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park. It was teeming with people, the vast majority gaily oblivious of the awe-inspiring landscape and enthralling plants and animals all around. And perhaps that was for the best, as they were quite happy to pass the day in the picnic area, doing whatever one does on a day out in the countryside and leaving us woodland creatures to our own devices (yes, I know, I am a terrible and totally unrepentant snob).
I retired to the edge of the beech forest and sat down among the rocks, trying (in vain) to summon up the courage to face the madding crowd for long enough to top up my water bottle. Growing sleepy to the sound of the wind in the trees, I was woken to full attention by a new rustling behind me. Someone, or something, was approaching. I slowly looked round and there right behind me was a fox. She (as I felt the presence to be feminine) walked a few paces, looked at me, looked at the picnic area, then walked another few paces, until she reached the edge of the forest and sat down just a couple of metres away. I stealthily shot a couple of photos, then put the camera down. After the first few minutes, neither of us thought much about the other. We just sat there, the fox and I, two wild creatures wondering whether we had more to gain or to lose by confronting the swarming throng. There was for me a sort of comradeship of equals in that shared alert waiting, although I doubt it was likewise for my vulpine companion. Then noiselessly the fox disappeared back into the forest, the car arrived to pick me up and we both left this interface between two worlds. As we drove away, I reflected with envy and a touch of sadness that at least she knew which world to go back to. Too human to belong to the wild world, too wild to belong to the human world. Forever at the edge, looking out, or looking in, that’s me.